Low Impact Life

have less, do more, be more

Author: Ms. LIL (Page 1 of 63)

The Progression of Principles: Food

I found the concept of progression of principles (or POP) in the book Moneyless Manifesto by Mark Boyle (you can read the book for free at his website). Living without money is a whole other (but extremely low impact!) thing that I won’t get into in this post but I might come back to in future posts.

The point of POP is that it is a road map from where we are today to living our highest ideals. It is a framework to organize the mainstream starting point (level 6), the steps in between and the optimum state (level 1) in a step by step fashion. The key is to make the steps realistic enough to be achievable but also challenging to promote change.

I thought that using a framework like this was very helpful because you can easily see which level you are presently on so that you can figure out how to get to the next level. Mark Boyle uses POP to map how to get to a stage where you don’t need money (level 1). I have done my own mapping of POP for living a Low Impact Life per category where level 6 is conventional living and level 1 is living completely off grid in the wilderness with little to no impact.  The first part of the POP series is food.

 

I started at level 6 when I moved from home and was a student and couldn’t afford to buy organic food. When I got my job and some more money I moved to the next level and started to buy organic food as much as I could. Now with our plan of building a homestead (you can read more about it here) we have progressed to level 4 and started to learn how to grow our own food and forage. We are aiming for level 2/3 not level 1 since our plan is to live on a homestead. Until we get a house with land we will continue to work on level 4 to get better at growing our own food at a small scale and learn about plants to start foraging more.

I will be sharing the other areas that I have drawn up the POP with you over the next couple of weeks. This series will show my map to living a Low Impact Life but I encourage you to map out your own path since what path you take is highly individual. If you have different goals than living on a homestead (which I am assuming most people have) maybe your level 1 for food is buying organic most of the time or trying to go towards zero waste and minimizing packaging or just becoming self sufficient on salad grown in your apartment. There is no right or wrong way to living a Low Impact Life you just have to define it for yourself and the POP model sets up a framework for that.

Frugal vs Low Impact food shopping

One of the hardest parts of living a Low Impact Life and a frugal life at the same time is food. In the best of worlds food wouldn’t have plastic packaging, would be locally grown and only in an organic way but we’re not there yet. Since we want to keep our food budget low we have a plan of action for that. Unfortunately it is not totally compatible with buying low impact food. Obviously we try to minimize impact where we can but it isn’t always easy to do that. Here is our holistic approach when it comes to food:

Our system: the standardized list

Mr LIL and I are quite boring when it comes to food and usually eat the same types of food so we pretty much have a standardized list. If some of our items are on offer we stock up so that we don’t have to pay full price for our items. We then base our cooking around what we have at home. Making sure that you only shop from the standard list eliminates most of the spending on random things that catches your eye. Creating a meal plan and only shop things that are needed for your plan is usually a tip to get control of your food budget. We find that working with the standard list works well for us and also means that we can buy stuff on offer which would be harder if you were following a strict list connected to a preset meal.

Comparing prices

The food prices are very simliar in the different food stores in Sweden (that would be generally high prices…). I have of course price compared the different stores around us and we do shop at the cheapest ones (that would be Willys and Lidl for us) but it is not a lot of difference. Where we get the savings is from stocking up on food and generally buying foods that are on offer.

Meat

One of the most expensive foods is meat. We have a two part approach to buying meat. First of we have a subsription to a “meat box” that gets delivered to our door every other month by the company Gårdssällskapet. We get around 8kg of local and organic meat with free delivery which lasts us a long time (usually about a month). Secondly Swedish food stores have a started a very good system of selling meat that is close to its best before date to a very discounted price. When we come across such meat (organic or sometimes non organic Swedish meat) we buy as much as we can and either make a big batch straight away or freeze it for later. So we get our high quality meat from Gårdsällskapet when we have got a delivery and then in between we buy the meat that is marked down. Since this meat would have been thrown out otherwise I think it’s both good for the environment that the food isn’t wasted and for the wallet since its usually 30-50% off. And since we also get the meat box we support the local organic farms.

Eat seasonally

Eating after the seasons in your country and also thinking of vegetables and fruits that are not from your local climate as luxury items makes for a frugal and low impact meal. The fruit/vegetables that are in season are cheaper and also don’t have to be shipped across the world (don’t see many pineapples growing in Sweden…). Shopping like this means that we get a varied selection over the year (even though food stores make it possible to buy the same stuff year round). Some months might be more boring, like now it feels like we have cabbage and carrots coming out of our ears but when summer comes around the selection is much wider. Since you only eat certain vegetables at certain times of the year you look forward to the season when you get to eat that specific vegetable again. You also feel closer to natures cycles when you know that the food has been produced locally at that time.

Less plastic packaging

We try to only buy food with either glass, carton or aluminium packaging and in bulk when we can but there is still a fair amout of plastic in our recycling bin. We always bring our own bags so that we don’t have to buy plastic bags at the store. Of course buying food with no packaging and bringing your own mesh bags/glass or aluminium containers is the optium level. This can be done with vegetables/fruits, cheese/meat over the counter, bread and nuts usually but since we don’t eat cheese or bread (see post on how we eat here) and want to get the offers on the meat this is a area we struggle in. What I am exploring now is making sauces and products that are packaged in plastic from scratch (which is also healthier) and go around some of the plastic packaging that way.

Foraging food for free

There are plenty of plants that you can forage for free if you know what you are looking for. Obviously the plants that are suitable for foraging changes in different zones and climate so getting to know your local plants is both a frugal and low impact way of aquiring food. Also check around the neighborhood (and with your neighbors) or in local groups if they have an excess of fruit or something else edible. In Stockholm there are many gardens with apple trees and the owners just want to get rid of the buckets of apples that they get each year.

Grow your own food

A both frugal and low impact approach to food is growing it yourself. Since we are growing vegetables that are expensive in the store like salad, herbs, spinach, bell peppers, chili, squash and tomatoes it is cheaper. Then we also get no pesticides, less emissions from transporting the food and no packaging. Quite the win! I can really recommend growing salad and herbs even if you only have a tiny apartment.

Hate waste

About one third of all food produced gets thrown away, that is 1,3 billion tonnes of food every year that is wasted. It is crutial to make sure that you eat everything that you buy both for minimizing impact and saving money. Save your left overs and if you’re a person that “just doesn’t like leftovers” this is a habit that you really need to consider changing both for the planet and your wallet. You can read more about food waste in my post Stop the food waste with Selina Juul.

These were my tips on how I approach the frugal vs low impact struggle when buying food. Since we need to eat every day this is an ongoing process of combining these two areas in the best way.

Always be prepared to minimize impact and spending

We have all been there, hungry, tired and desperate for something to snack on. Or it’s 30 degrees out and we’re super thirsty so we buy some bottled water. Or our energy is running low and we need a coffee NOW. Or we ended up buying that super expensive meal at the airport. Or we didn’t have a bag with us to the grocery store so we had to buy a plastic bag. All of these scenarios cost money and usually come in single use plastics/packaging. And all of these scenarios arise due to a lack of planning. So what can you do? Always have a plan and always be prepared!

What to bring everyday

I always bring a bag with me so that I have all the things that I need to avoid plastic and buying unecessary things when out and about. The things I bring are: spoon/fork, glass bottle of water, an extra cotton bag, some kind of frugal snack (like nuts or a boiled egg), a reusable travel coffee mug if I think I need it and if you are a girl a menstrual cup/nature sponge so that you aren’t caught of guard.

What to bring to work

I always bring lunch in a glass food box to work to save money and be able to eat healthier (having all the options in a restaurant makes it harder to resist unhealthy options). I have a glass water bottle that I have at my desk and can also bring it with me if I am going to meetings so that I don’t have to take a single use plastic cup if I get thirsty. We have free coffee machines at work so I don’t need to bring coffee but if you don’t have that you can bring coffee/tea with you in a thermos or if you have somewhere to boil water you can have a french coffee press at work. And always have at least one snack because when three o’clock comes around that sugar craving might make itself heard and you want a healthy snack close so that you don’t run down to the cafeteria/a café and get a chocolate muffin…

What to bring to the food store

We always bring a backpack and cotton bags to pack our groceries in so that we don’t need to buy plastic bags. We haven’t really gotten to the stage of bringing our own containers but I think we will start doing this in the near future. And make sure that you have eaten something before you go shopping. I am going to write a seprate post on food shopping and cooking.

What to bring when travelling

This scenario is similar to the first one but I will often pack a larger or multiple snacks since stuff happens when travelling. If I am on a train or bus I usually bring a food box if I know it will stretch over either lunch or dinner and coffee in a thermos. If I am flying somewhere water is harder to bring, some airports allow you to fill up an empty waterbottle when you get in (like Oslos airport, yay!) which you can ask. I also bring lots of snacks especially if it is a long flight since for some reason I always get peckish when travelling and I don’t want to give in and buy an expensive snack.

So these are the ways that I always am prepared so that I don’t get stuck having to buy something that isn’t necessary. That way I am meeting both my goals of saving money and reducing my impact on the environment.

Our big picture plan: the Low Impact Homestead

Lately me and Mr LIL have been discussing at length what we want out of our life. It is not an easy question to answer and takes time and self reflection as well as reflection together to start figuring it out. Now we feel like we have found our heading that both of us feel equally passionate about and our ideas also feel ripe enough to share here on the blog.

Before we dive into our plan I want to raise a very important point that the last couple of months has lead us to which is we have fully embraced the fact that we don’t need or want to be mainstream in any way. It is such a freeing thought, like a weight was lifted and made us see our path clearer. Before we were trying to fit our plan around the mainstream way of living which made it very hard to figure out (aka we would have to wait until retirement at probably 70). The financial independence movement has opened a completely new world of possibilities. By saving money aggressively over a couple of years we can create the option of never having to work again or to be able to do what ever we want knowing that our base cost of living will be covered. That’s why we have started to save a large part of our income and become (more) frugal. That in itself is very good but now we also have a plan connected to our general saving. So without further ado, presenting:

The Low Impact Homestead

The Homestead plan comes from a couple of different interests/passions: we both want to live sustainably (obviously), we love being outside and connected to nature, we love doing things with our hands, we love animals and being self sufficient greatly appeals to us.

Our plan will be divided into stages so that we can learn the skillset necessary to be able to graduate to running a proper homestead/farm in the future which is our goal. So what will the stages look like?

Stage 1: learn how to grow vegetables

First off we’ve started on a tiny scale by growing salad and some herbs indoors. Our next step is starting the seeds that we will then plant in my dads garden as soon as Swedish weather permits it. In this stage we will continue living in the city and work on “homesteading where we are”. This might include making most food from scratch, eating seasonally, composting, learning how to preserve food and how to mend things. All the while saving as much as we can for our money making machine.

Stage 2: learn how to raise chickens (and possibly rabbits)

For this stage to come into play we will need to buy our own plot of land with an existing house or build a house ourselves. This is a very real plan for us within a couple of years because 1. we really want to live in the woods and 2. want to be able to create a self sustaining house. When that is in place we will be able to grow our own food and have some smaller animals. Since we eat an amazing amout of eggs chickens are the first animal that we want to keep (except for the LIL wolf of course). We will keep saving as much as we can and will live in this house until we’re financially independent.

Stage 3: The Low Impact Homestead

By the time we’re financially independent we will have had plenty of time to figure out if we want to move on to the full time homestead plan. If that is the case we will buy more land and a farm to have room to grow more and have larger animals. This will of course be as self sufficient as we can make it. In this stage we will have our base living costs covered to there will be no pressure of having to work normal jobs at the same time (although it might be something we want to do but probably not full time if we’re pursuing to create a larger homestead) or figuring out how to earn a living from the homestead. If we end up being able to produce enough so that we can sell the excess that will be bonus money.

 

So there you have it, our three stage homestead plan! I thought that presenting our long term plan might tie together what otherwise looks like quite random posts on the blog. I will be writing posts with updates along our journey under the category Homestead.

Södra Törnskogens nature reserve

Today we did a almost 9 km/3 hour hike in a beautiful nature reserve Södra Törnskogen which is quite close to where we live (15 min drive). We packed a bag with water, frugal snacks (boiled eggs, bars, nuts and a termos with coffee) and the LIL wolfs dog food. The nature shifted from swampy areas with birches to pine and fir forests  to open areas with decidious trees like oak. It was amazing to find all the different vegetation in the same reserve together with a lake and lots of little streams. Because the snow/ice hasn’t comepletely melted it wasn’t super muddy yet. A great saturday hike!

The highest point!

Snack break

High five for a hike well done

 

Living a simpler life

Simple living is something that I have been thinking a lot about since it’s obviously connected to frugality and low impact life. I think it is a reaction to all the stress, information overload, consumtion and the pressure to constantly be busy and productive that surrounds us on a daily basis. We’re supposed to work a full time exciting and fulfilling job, transport yourself to that job, have quality time with your significant other (and children), exercise multiple times a week, cook delicious homemade meals, have a spotless home, have a vibrant social life with lots of friends and family, have fun and engaging hobbies, travel to exotic and exciting places and have time to yourself. It is unsustainable to try to do all of these and do them perfectly which society expects us to do. Just reading that sentence makes me exhausted…

About two years ago I was trying to do everything. Working a full time job, meeting friends after work almost every day, cooking food, exercising a couple times a week and meeting Mr LIL on weekends since we lived in different cities at the time. I almost got burnt out even though none of these things were extreme. During that period I identified that I am an introvert. What I mean by that is not that I’m a social outcast that hates people it just means that I get energy from being by myself (in comparison to extroverts that get energy from being with people). So my super hectic life was draining me of energy and I had no time to charge. I decided then that I needed to plan my week with days in between seeing friends or doing stuff that were meant for time to be by myself and relax. This was a life changing moment since I was quite sucked into the extrovert norm of always hanging out with people and that it is weird to sit home alone that started in university.

It has taken time to accept that I can’t do everything and I have had to learn to say no to things when I feel that I don’t have the energy. That way I can plan so that when I hang out with people I bring a fully charged and focused person to the table which makes the time together so much more enjoyable. Since I actively took control over my weeks my life has really slowed down and I have created a nice balance between doing things and relaxing that works for me. The pressure of the life with dinners out/bars/partying which is the norm of friday plans of young(ish) people without kids has lifted. Now I can really enjoy having a friday plan to “just” read a book (with a glass of wine), cook dinner with Mr LIL, go for a walk with the LIL wolf and then go to bed quite early.

Cheers!

Frugal Hedonism

The latest book in my long line of frugality books that I’ve been reading is The Art of Frugal Hedonism (you can read more about it in my post here). I thought I’d try to implement some of the actions that the chapters of the book were centered around. I picked out 5 of the 51 chapters that are all related to changing my mindset around the relationship between spending money and enjoyment:

1.Relish – to be aware of and fully enjoy the small things in life which is a habit and a skill that needs practising and honing.

It is easy to use spending money as mental confirmation that something of value is being obtained. We can equally choose to relish and recognize value in experience, atmosphere, sensuality or company. 

2.Hate waste – nature has no concept of waste and human societies haven’t until very recently had much concept of waste.

By developing an allergy to wastefulness, you can not only diminish your role in this bizarre state of affairs, but save a wallop of money too!

3.Recalibrate your senses – transform every day things to become treats or luxuries through the element of restriction and pressing reset on our expectation button.

The basic blueprint for modern first-world living is normalized hyper-abundance and hyper-stimulation, punctured by desperate attempts at escape when the fallout becomes too distressing. Frugal Hedonism inverts this pattern by normalizing an elegant sufficiency of consumption and then artfully dotting it with intensely relished abundance.

4.Find free “third” places – this is a place that is not work or home but a third non-spending-oriented place where you can be. For example town squares, parks, the library, a community garden, the beach or a boardwalk/pier

Simply by sitting back and looking outwards, we can replicate the mental state we are chasing when we go into public spaces and pay for something as an excuse to feel leisurely there.

5.Indulge your curiosity – instead of buying something new when craving novelty or stimulation learn something new which is a less expensive way of getting the same feeling.

Most people love the feeling of getting something new, but forget that it can come as easily from discovery as from consumption.

Reading tips frugality and financial independence

I have read a quite many books over the past months that are related to financial independence/frugality. They have given me more detail, insight and motivation to keep working towards our goal of financial independence. Here are some of my favourites, I especially enjoyed Early Retirement Extreme, Meet the Frugalwoods and The Art of Frugal Hedonism but all books where great in their own way. I would definitely recommend reading all of them since they all have a different approach/perspective on the why of frugality and financial independence.

Early Retirement Extreme, Jacob Lund Fisker

This was a great book that went in depth about how to build a strategy, how money works, how most of society acts concerning money and frugal tips all related to financial independence. It is considered “extreme” but I loved the detail of this book.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert T Kiyosaki

In this book the author dives into the thinking behond being poor and being rich. He is brought up by two dads (his own and his friends dad) that think very differently when it comes to money. He describes different strategies and mentalities on how to accumulate wealth. I also enjoyed this book a lot.

Total Money Makeover, Dave Ramsey

This is a great book if you have debt you need to pay off. Dave Ramsey is one of the household names in the financial independence world and his book didn’t dissapoint. He is very straight in his writing, no beating about the bush that debt is an emergency that needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. He has great actionable content to get you back to zero from minus net worth and then continuing with the stages towards financial independence from there.

Your Money or Your Life, Vicki Robin

A fantastic book to get you thinking about what you want out of life. By suffering lifestyle inflation you are locking yourself into a long life of working. Which in truth is exchanging your limited time on this planet for money that you then spend on unessecary things. What would you rather have: stuff or time to do what you want? It also going into how to achieve financial independence and setting up a structure for saving.

Unshakeable: Your Guide to Financial Freedom & Money: Master the Game, Tony Robbins

I am a huge fan of Tony Robbins and have read lots of his other books which are more about behaviour, how to be successful and happy. I read these books a while ago since I was going through his books and I think it was this book that got me interested in investing in index funds and the possibility to become financially independent. He admits that he is no financial expert himself but the book is based on information that he collects through interviewing top performers in the financial world and lays out a guide how to master money.

Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living,  Elizabeth Willard Thames 

I loved Mrs Frugalwoods book! It was more a story of her and her husbands path to financial independence and moving to a homestead in Vermont that a step by step guide of the details which I really enjoyed. I also love her writing which is very personal and funny.

The Art of Frugal Hedonism: A Guide to Spending Less While Enjoying Everything More,  Annie Raser-Rowland & Adam Grubb

Another great book that I just finished this weekend. Packed with lots of ways to live a frugal but rich life that inspire to action. Also great thoughts about the world we live in where there is so much to enjoy (without spending lots of money) but where people are very unhappy and dissatisfied and of course how to live a more satisfied life with less.

The Simple Path to Wealth, J L Collins

This book it is very focused on the “how to” invest in index funds and the different retirement accounts in USA. I felt that after reading the other books and blogs that I have a pretty good grasp of why investing in index funds is great.  I also felt that since I don’t live in USA the book wasn’t that necessary for me but if I had read it early on I could imagine that there was a lot of good stuff.

Summary March free time

March is when I finally got healthy again after being sick on and off since December. With that came the energy to meet people and do stuff! We went on our ski trip which was amazing. There we both got to do an activity that we love and hang out with friends for a full week. Around that I have managed to meet friends and family, had a full day of hanging with the gang of girls that get together now and again, had an after work with colleagues, started up our seeds, read 4 books, started going to the gym again, biking to work and of course hung out with Mr LIL and the LIL wolf. Easter was spent at the house in the achipelago with Mr LILs family.

I have been thinking about skills to learn and have landed on gardening since we will be starting the garden outside as soon as it is warm enough (still – 10 degrees in the mornings) and agility for the LIL wolf!

The bank of great things

I am reading a book about frugality (big surprise!) called The Art of Frugal Hedonism by Annie Raser Rowland and Adam Grubb. They had an excellent part about the importance of being materialistic, meaning taking care of your material possessions. Today it has almost become cool or at least normalized that you don’t take care of your things or repair them. You just go out and buy a new one and throw the old one out. This leads to two things:

1. We don’t value the things we have

2. The knowledge of how to maintain and repair things is forgotten.  So many things are bought just because the owner doesn’t know how to repair it or breaks earlier because it hasn’t been maintained properly (and of course everyone also wants a new thingy)

I know that my dad still uses an old kitchen aid that I think is older than him and still works perfectly. I myself got our old ice cream maker that must be approaching the same age as the kitchen aid that still works. How come that our own microwave, dishwasher, mixer and so many other things break within a couple of years? Have we become worse at making things? Of course not, there is something else at play called planned obsolescence along with wanting everything so cheap that the quality gets compromised. 

Planned obsolescence is a policy of planning or designing where you build in a limited useful life in the product. What this means is you design it to break within a certain time so that the company has a chance to sell you more. How long do you need to own a washing machine before it breaks and still feel like you have trust in the company? It needs to be long enough that you can’t really remember when you bought it but not too long ago that the company can sell you a new one as soon as possible. 3 is too short but approaching 7 years it’s  more likely that you don’t remember was it 7 or 10 years ago you bought it and it feels like it’s worked for a “long” time. It obviously works best in markets where there isn’t endless choice because then you will probably choose another brand.

It is the same mentality that makes it hard to repair the stuff we have since companies don’t want to us to. The products today aren’t designed so that we can take them apart and fix them.

There is also Percived obsolescence. Here companies work hard to make us believe that what we have that still works isn’t good enough. Clothes and mobile phones are typical examples but most things now are perceived that way. You need to have the latest model of everything so that you can keep up with the Joneses that are you friends, colleagues and neighbors. This makes people throw out a perfectly good pair of  jeans just because the cut has changed from one year to the next. Which is just plain ridiculous from a resource perspective but completely “normal” in today’s society.

The bank of great things

So how do you become materialistic in a smart and sustainable way? One way is to build up a bank of great things. When something breaks and needs replacing or you need something that you don’t have (need not want!) you make sure that you buy something (can be second hand) that has great quality. You might have to research this a bit so that you are sure that you are paying for quality not brand name. Let’s say you need a rain jacket – you buy a great classic jacket (that might cost a lot, much more than other people pay for rain jackets) with the intention of having it for the rest of your life. If you then calculate the cost per use it will be very low compared to buying many cheap jackets over the same time span. My super warm winter jacket is an example from my wardrobe (I live in Sweden so you need a super warm winter jacket). It cost 5000kr ($600) which is a lot! I bought it when I was 16 years old and 11 years later it’s still going strong and I’ve used it every winter. So far the cost per use is 15kr but since I will probably use it for many more years it will be close to zero kr per use.

So start building your bank of great things and sooner or later you will have a home with things that you can have the rest of your life just like my dad’s kitchen aid (or sell second hand since they have some value). I think it is important to first exhaust all the other ways of acquiring things like borrowing, finding/getting tings for free, buying second hand before you use this strategy and that the intention is to own things for life. And don’t forget to maintain them!

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